Why the individual mandate is unconstitutional

August 28, 2011

Cedric Dark's suggestion that the federal health insurance mandate rests on the same legal basis as the state mandate for auto insurance is incorrect ("Beyond the individual mandate," Aug. 26).

Unlike state governments, the federal government has no authority to makes laws regarding the general health or safety of the population that are not based on a specific authorization in the Constitution.

Mr. Dark's analogy does, however, illustrate why the private health insurance mandate rests on shaky legal grounds. If the "free rider" argument is accepted, then the federal government could just as well mandate the purchase of private disability income, long-term health care or life insurance.

In each case, the failure to self-insure for these contingencies inevitably imposes costs on the rest of society. Contrary to the assertions of advocates of the health insurance mandate, health care is not unique in allowing "free riders" to impose costs on the rest of us.

But if the individual mandate is constitutional, there is no logical stopping point to this argument.

Sheldon H. Laskin

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